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The Making of One Eyed Cat - Part 4: the Pasties

I feel like I really stepped up my pastie game since making my last set (which you can read about here).  This set was made with better materials and overall has a much better finish.  So if you want to learn how I made these cute-as-a-button cat nose pasties, keep reading!

 

Photo by Joel Devereux

 

I made my first pair of pasties out of cardboard from a pasta box.  They were star-shaped (for a cowgirl-themed beginner burlesque routine) and covered with silver lame and plastic rhinestones.  After this I graduated to craft foam sheets, being the easiest way to make a quick pair of pasties for an end-of-term group routine.  The problem with craft foam pasties is that they aren't the sturdiest and will be ripped apart when you remove the tape.  Keeping this in mind, I decided when I made my pasties for my first solo that I would back the foam with buckram to protect it from tape removal.  Well, I couldn't find buckram so I ended up using a thick interfacing that frays, which I tried to abate by sealing the edges with nail glue (which I use to fix almost everything, including my overlocker).  

The finished pasties (see above) are pretty but not ideal.  The overlapped section of foam with the added crystals is thick.  So thick they look a little silly.  Don't get me wrong, it's not something you can see on stage, but looking at them makes me think that craft foam sheets really aren't the right material for a proper pair of pasties.  So when I went to make these pasties I wanted to make sure I used better materials.  

I've never had any luck buying buckram.  I'm usually met with puzzled looks when I ask the staff at Spotlight where I can find it.  So when I went to Lincraft and asked one of the staff where the buckram was, I was dubious when they said it was over with the interfacing.  But it was there! I was so excited! I finally had buckram to make pasties with!  

 

Super thick over lap in the last pair of pasties

Nice and thin overlap in the new pair of pasties

 

The next thing to do was create the design for the pastie base.  The easiest way to make a non-circular pastie is to start with a circle, make it into a pastie, and trim it to the shape you want.  I started with a paper circle slightly larger than my nipple which I overlapped as per normal, secured with sticky tape, then trimmed down to a cat nose shape.  I tried them on to check the coverage then altered the size of the starting circle and the shape of the cat nose until I was happy.  I then removed the tape and flattened out the pastie.  I traced this shape onto another piece of paper so that I could refine the design and make a smooth and neat template. 

Using this template I cut 2 layers of buckram for my pasties and a layer of vinyl.  Now that they are finished I think one layer of buckram would be enough.  I shaped and glued the layers of buckram then glued them to each other using craft glue.  I used my trusty pin curl clips to hold the overlapping buckram together while they were drying.  I also used pin curl clips to hold the 2 layers together while they dried.  I used 3 clips for this which not only held them together but also acted as a little tripod that kept them and any excess glue off the table.  The cat noses are pink so after the glue dried I painted them using an acrylic paint.  

 

Finished pasties with the pin curl clip 'tripod'

The vinyl covered inside of the pastie

 

The next thing to do was attach the whiskers!  I was fortunate enough to receive some glitter whiskers with the beautiful half-mask fascinator I bought from Pearls and Swine.  The whiskers are a flexible plastic covered in glitter.  I was sent whiskers in pink and black and opted for black as it would contrast the most with my skin and stand out more on stage.  I cut and attached the whiskers with a hot glue gun to the back fo the pasties.  I then attached the backing of the pastie, which is vinyl, to over the ends fo the whiskers and create a durable and smooth backing.  This I glued in place with craft glue and held in place with my trusty pin curl clips.  

 

Finished pastie

 

Finally, it was time for crystals.  I covered the pasties with a mix of rose, light rose and Crystal AB in ss12 and  ss16.  I glued the crystals on in lines radiating out from the centre using E6000.   I filled any spaces the best I could but with the base painted pink any little gaps are fine and not noticeable.  

 

Close up of pastie

 

The finished pasties are great and a definite step up from my last pair.  The only thing I'm not too sure about is the vinyl backing.  While it adds strength to the structure and is a smooth surface that won't be damaged by tape, it seems to be too smooth.  The tape I currently used seems to not want to stick to the pasties too well.  This combined with the fact that the whiskers are long and want to catch on thing means that I have lost a pastie on stage 1 out of the 3 times I have performed this act.  Maybe I need to change tapes or maybe I need to change to spirit gum?

 

Photo by Jacs Saffioti | Editing by Ruby Corvette

 

Anyway, I hope this post is helpful to stepping up your pastie game or at least gives you a few ideas for your next pair!  My next post will cover the final elements of the costume including the gorgeous half-mask fascinator from Pearls & Swine!

xo Margeaux

The Making of One Eyed Cat - Part 3: The G-String

In the next part of the Making of One Eyed Cat, I take you through how I made the strappy and skimpy g-string.  Sewing lingerie can be intimidating, but it's actually very achievable.  

 

Photo by Joel Devereux

 

My thinking when it came to my g-string was to incorporate something to create another reveal.  The idea was to have a paw print covering my hoohaa that I would conceal under a black panel attached with snaps.  At the end of the act, the paw print would be revealed as part of the finale.  My other idea was to take advantage of the sheer tap pants and dress and create some interesting shapes with straps.  I did a few sketches before coming up with the one element that everything was anchored on - the cat nose.  The back of the g-string has a point where all the straps converge.  I made this point a cat nose and the straps the whiskers!  That meant that I needed to design the front of the g-string to accommodate the extra straps to acheive this. 

 
 

The next consideration was the hardware required.  To enable a proper fit I opted to put sliders on the straps.  I also wanted to use some loops to add to the overall look.  I ended up buying them from boobytraps.com.au who stock a huge range of lingerie making supplies.  I went with the die cast metal components in gunmetal.  I also purchased the elastic from there in 10mm and 19mm.  

 
 

The final design ended up something like the sketch below.  I drafted the pattern for the panel of the g-string by putting on a high-waisted pair of cotton briefs and marking where I wanted the panel to cover.  I finished the gusset section in a triangular shape and tried to make sure it covered enough.  I then cut the panel out of the briefs and traced it onto paper, adding a seam allowance.  I did the mesh panel first which I edged with scalloped elastic in a matching colour, that I also got from Booby Traps.  I attached the elastic by sewing it on to the right side of the mesh (if there is such a thing) with the scalloped edge facing in, then folding the elastic and fabric over to the wrong side and sewing again.  I then made another panel out of black spandex from the same pattern piece which I just sewed a regular hem on.

 
 

I think this is where things went slightly wrong.  Even though I sewed the elastic onto the mesh panel using a zigzag stitch and my walking foot, the panel did become much larger.  I experienced the same issue when I sewed the fold-over elastic to the mesh of my mesh bra I made form my previous costume (see blog post for that here).  It was probably a good thing that the panel ended up larger than designed as I'm not sure I'd be happy with less coverage.  The down-side is that the top black panel is much smaller than the bottom mesh panel.  Although I don't mind the resulting look too much.

After the panels were sewn I attached the straps.  First was the strap that goes in my crack.  For this I used the 19mm elastic strapping from Booby Traps.  I first attached it to the end of the panel and left it long so that I could adjust while trying it on.  I then sewed the triangle loop to the top of the panel by making a loop out of leftover scalloped eleastic and stitching in place.  I then needed to create the top strap to go around my waist.  These straps have sliders on them to make them adjustable.  This required a lot of thought because, even though I am a geologist, I struggle with spatial visualisation.  The way I approached it was to get a bra and copy the straps on it.  

 

Back of string showing cat whiskers and nose detail.

 

Once the main straps were attached, I could determine their lengths by doing a quick fitting.  I fit the waist straps so that they were as loose as I could possibly want them with the sliders at maximum length.  I fit the vertical strap to be tight enough for the panel to cover what it needs to cover effectively.  Once happy I held the 3 straps in place with my trusty pin curl clips then straight stitched in place.  The other straps were attached to the panel with metal loops which were themselves attached with loops of scalloped elastic.  I then again went through the mind fuck of attaching the sliders then fit the straps and sewed in place.  

 

Front of g-string showing cat paw detail.

 

Once sewn together it was time to do the paw print.  First I needed to determine where the paw print was to go.  I found the best way was to mark the position while the g-string was on.  I decided to create the paw print entirely out of crystals.  I didn't want to sew on fabric patches because I was worried about how they would affect the stretch.  Because there was nothing to going under the crystals I needed to place them very close to each other. To do this you need the g-string to be stretched while you crystal it.  But the glue will go through the mesh and onto anything it touches, so you need to somehow stretch it without it touching anything where you want to place the crystals...  The solution I came up with was a bowl.  I placed the area to crystal over the opening of the ball.  I then stretched and twisted the rest of the g-string around the outside of the bowl and secured it under the bowl.  

 

Front of g-string showing detachable panel.

 

I glued on the crystals using E6000.  The stones I used were a mix of Black Diamond and Hematite.  I was originally going to use Jet with an accent stone mixed in but the lady at the shop (Bead Trimming & Craft Co)  convinced me otherwise.  I swear they have special lights in that place because they looked a lot better in the store then they do in person. The combination of the two comes off very grey which I'm not too happy about.  

The last thing to do was to sew on the snaps to secure the black panel to the front.  I just used some standard small metal snaps and hand sewed them on.  Again, the panel is not the same shape and size as the mesh panel below and I'm still not sure if I like it or not.  Also, there is a bit of gaping between the straps and snaps that I'm not happy about.  I will need to keep experimenting with materials to try and stabilise the panels.  But it's nothing some double sided tape wont fix.

 

Photo by Jacs Saffioti | Editing by Ruby Corvette

 

So there you go!  Making a g-string is not that hard but does require a bit of planning and thinking and is helped immensely by a walking foot.  I haven't been blogging as much as I used to due to some other things that have been taking up my time (like Paint Me Burly Babe and Glitter au Gogo) but I do want to finish blogging about the making of this costume.  The next post will be about the making of the pasties which took a major step up since my last pair (read the post about them here) so stay tuned for that!

 

xo Margeaux

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Part 6: The Pasties

This is the end... Of this costume series at least.  And what better way to end then with the Swarovski covered, tassel twirling pasties!  I am especially proud of how pretty my pasties are and am more than happy to show you how I made them.  I will also include a few things I learnt about pastie making since completing these ones.

 
You'll be as happy as I look with your new sparkly twirling pasties!  Photo by Cameron Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

You'll be as happy as I look with your new sparkly twirling pasties!  Photo by Cameron Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

 

Pasties are often your final reveal and can create an opportunity for an extra gimmick or punchline or to engage in a little tassel twirling.  In my act I climax after I humping my largest powder puff across the stage - a move affectionately known as "Fucking the muppet" - but I wanted/needed a finale after this.  So tassel twirling it was!  I made my pasties with twirling in mind, but most designs are fine for adding tassels.

 
Photo by David Gatt | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by David Gatt | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

I did a fair bit of research on pastie designs before settling on my shape.  I didn't want regular circle pasties and wanted something a bit art deco to go with my vague forties theme.  I was inspired by these beautiful pasties made by Manuge et Toi and went with a star-shaped design.  My design is much more basic though and my pasties are nothing like the quality and beautiful perfection you get from Christine Manuge.

To make the pastie base I drew a circle (with a compass) that was the  diameter of my areola plus 1.5cm to account for the reduction in size when the pastie is formed.  To explain this I will show you how I make a regular circle pastie.  Step 1 is to measure across your areola.  Now depending on how pointy you want your pastie to be you need to add on a bit extra.  To create the pastie you need to make a cone shape out of a circle.  You do this by cutting a line from the outside to the centre of the circle then overlapping the 2 cut edges.  

 
 

How far you overlap the edges will determine how pointy the pastie will be.  In the first picture below I have overlapped the edges by 3cm.  For this level of overlap you need to add 0.5cm to the diameter  - that is, to make a 6.5cm diameter pastie with a slight point, you have to make a 7cm diameter cirlce.  In the second picture I have overlapped the edges by 6cm.  This resulted in a 5.5cm diameter extra pointy pastie from a 7cm circle.    There is probably some kind of mathematical formula for this, but in the meantime, just play around with a pastie cut out of paper until you get the coverage and pointy-ness that you require.  

For the pasties I made, I overlapped the edges by one star point.  This the easiest way to make a star-shaped pastie and the same way I make regular 5-pointed star pasties (except I start with a 6-pointed star).   I started with a circle then drew an 8-pointed star inside of it.  To do this I drew lines dividing the circle into 16 equally size segments.  I then marked 0.5cm from the circle on every second line then drew a line from this point to the point where the next line met the circle.  Et  voila, you have a 8-pointed star!  You can of course make the points deeper by measuring further along every second line if you wish. 

I then transferred the pattern to a sheet of craft foam.  I also transferred it onto a piece of heavy weight interfacing that I used in lieu of buckram, which I was unable to get.  I glued the 2 to each other then cut along one of the lines between 2 points, overlapped and glued in place with hot glue.  I used a pin curl clip to hold it in place while the glue set.  The reason I put the interfacing on the back is because I want to reuse these pasties many times and applying and removing double-sided tape (my preferred pastie attachment method) can result in some of the foam being ripped off when the tape is removed.  Also, the interfacing can fray, especially when tape is removed, so I sealed the edges with nail glue. This will not happen if you  use buckram, which is what I recommend you use.  

 
 

Using this method of construction does result in a ridge in the pastie.  It's not that big of a deal, but it would look better if it wasn't there.  The ridge is quite pronounced due to the thickness of the foam.  Looking back, I should have cut out one points and glued the edges together instead of overlapping then glued on the buckram backing to further secure the 2 edges together.  Overall, this is an OK way to make pasties but is far from the best.  What it is though is quick and easy, which may be exactly what you want at the time.

 
 

Next up was gluing on the crystals.  For maximum sparkle it's always a good idea to use a mix of colours and sizes of crystals.  For these pasties I used the same crystals I used on all the other costume elements:  ss16 and ss30  AAA hot fix  AB crystals from Bead, Trimming & Craft Co., and Swarovski ss12 Light Rose and ss16 Rose flat backs.  I find it best to determine a pattern before gluing.  I started with a pattern radiating from the centre to the points of the star.  I then filled in between the points with another pattern I mirrored on both sides.  One important thing to remember is to leave space in the centre for your tassel (if using). Once you've completed you patterns you can then go and fill in any spaces - which I did with the smaller crystals as well as some ss10 AAA hot fix Crystal.

Sidebar:  I have heard of people having issues gluing hot fix crystals.  I have only ever used hot fix crystals for my crystalling projects for the silly reason that when I buy my crystals I buy a mix of AAA and Swarovski.  Because the AAA only come in hot fix the guy I buy from assumes I want the Swarovski in hot fix too and I never think to tell him otherwise.  Anyway, I have never had an issue gluing hot fix.  I personally think that you just need to use more glue then you think you do.  I use E6000 glue (in a well ventilated room, with a fan on, and wearing a respirator).

Now for the tassels.  I bought the hugest tassels I could find, but not on purpose.  They just looked nicer than any other tassels I could find.  I bought them from the curtain section of Lincraft.  They are actually really good quality tassels that never crinkle or crease no matter how I store them and they twirl like a dream.  To improve the twirling though, I used fishing tackle.  This is something I learnt from Miss Burlesque Queensland 2016, Lenore Noire.  To maximise twirling you use fishing swivels to attach your tassels to your pasties.  Simply hand sew one end of the swivel onto the pastie then feed the tassel loop through the other end of the swivel and feed the tassel through the loop to secure.  The added bonus of this is that you can easily change the tassels on your pasties.  

 
 

The next piece of fishing tackle you need is sinkers.  If you flip over your tassel and find the centre, you can easily find a strand in the centre to thread a sinker or 2 onto.  You then secure them in place as close to the 'head' of the tassel as possible with a double knot or by tying the next strand to the strand you've threaded the sinker on to.  Adding extra weight to the tassel will improve you twirling immensely.  Fishing tackle can easily be purchased from Kmart as well as sports and camping stores.  

 
 

And that's it!  The only thing left to do is perfect your tassel twirling skills.  While I was developing my act I also took a tassel twirling class with Lenore Noire at the Bombshell Burlesque Academy and I was so glad I did.  Lenore is a great tassel twirler and teacher and I highly recommend taking one of her classes or doing a private lesson with her.  

So ends the Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'.  But don't be dismayed, I have just  started an intense 8 week period of costuming for my next solo act that I hope to debut at the next BB Le Buff's School of Performance CaBBaret on the 7th of October!!!  So stayed tuned for updates!

xo Margeaux

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Part 5: Props

So after last week's diversion into podcasting, we are back with another installment in the making of my solo costume.  Today we will be discussing the making of the props.  I use 3 props in the routine, all of them are powder puffs and all of them are fluffy and pink and cute and easy to make.  

 

Photo by KTB Design | MUAH & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

The concept for my act and the props is simple, as the puffs get bigger the costume gets smaller!  I had a fairly clear idea of what props I wanted when I started researching them so the process was fairly straight forward.  I did however fall into that trap of most performers of wanting elaborate, beautiful, and inconveniently large props.  I blame Dita Von Teese. Anyway, I started designing a dressing table to use a a place to store my powder puffs as well as a piece of beautiful stage dressing (maybe I should actually be blaming Lily St Cyr).  I then came across this article on Pin Curl Magazine.  The line that was the nail in the coffin for the dressing table was, "If your “prop” is actually set dressing, leave it at home."  The writer then goes on to explain:

There’s a dramatic principle called “Chekhov’s Gun.” The great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once remarked that if there is a gun onstage, it had damn well better go off at some point, or else your audience will spend the entire time fixated on it.
Likewise, if you bring a prop onstage and just leave it there, sad and alone for the duration of your number, the audience will spend all three minutes or whatever wondering what you’re going to do with it. If you don’t need the prop, lose it.

This sentiment was echoed by Queen Imogen Kelly during a workshop of her's I attended.  The problem of easy transport and set up of the prop was something a was able to design for, but the fact the prop was something I really didn't need was something I couldn't change.

As for the props I did make...  

The largest puff is also the simplest.  It is made from a long pile faux fur,  "Yeti" fur that I got from Spotlight, as well as left over pink satin from my corset.  It's pretty much a round cushion with a strip of satin that forms the typical ribbon handle of a powder puff.  I sewed this 'ribbon' into a bow of sorts to give it a little extra somethin' somethin'.  The filling is a piece of foam I trimmed down to a circle. 

 
Photo by David Gatt | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by David Gatt | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

The next puff is the long-handled puff.  This puff required a bit more research and design to complete.  I trawled Pintrest and Google image search for inspiration pictures and finally decided on a design.  The base of the puff is 2 pieces of stiffened felt.  I cut them out and then used one for the puff side and one for the back side.  The puff side was easy and made by cutting a circle of fur slightly bigger then the circle to account for seam allowance, snipping the seam allowance, and gluing the fur to the felt and folding over and gluing down the seam allowance to the backside.  The back was much more complicated.  

 
 

I decided on a pleated back that gathered in the centre.  To create this I needed to do some maths.  The first thing you need is the circumference of the felt circle (or circumfernce if you aren't too good at spelling - see below).  From this you can calculate the length of fabric required for the backing by some kind of maths that is beyond me or by doing up a little toile.  I decided on 1.5cm pleats so I marked a piece of paper every 1.5cm and folded it into pleats.  I then divided the length it was before with the length it was after folding into pleats to get the factor I needed to multiply the circumference by to get the total length of fabric required (without seam allowance).

So if I take a piece of paper 19.5cm long and and create 1.5cm wide pleats the resulting piece of paper will be 7.5cm long.  19.5 / 7.5 = 2.667.  The circumference of my circle was 48cm so the length of fabric I needed was 128cm, plus seam allowance.  The width of the fabric needs to be the radius of the circle plus seam allowance - 7.5cm plus 1.5cm outer seam allowance and 0.5cm inner seam allowance.  I opted for a smaller seam allowance for the inner seam to reduce the bulk of fabric after the seam is gathered.

 
puff sketch.JPG
 

Once the fabric is pleated you can straight stitch along the outer seam allowance to keep the pleats in place then stitch the ends together to make a loop.  Baste along the inner seam allowance by using the longest stitch length a the lowest tension then use this to gather the centre.  Tie off the threads to secure.  You can now attach the outer seam allowance to the felt circle by gluing it in place.  Snipping the seam allowance in places will help with this.  Before you completely glue it on, stuff the fabric with some cushion fill.  This will give take up the extra space created by the gap at the centre and give a smooth and cushioned look.  

To cover the gathering at the centre I first tried a satin covered button.  I couldn't find one of the right size so I made one using cushion fill and satin.  It didn't look as good as I had hoped so I instead decided to use a rhinestoned brooch I had.  I hand sewed it on, concealing the stitches underneath.  I was planning on using the same lace that I used on the tap pants and mesh bra to decorate the backing but instead went with a radiating pattern of crystals to go with the brooch

 
 

 For the handle I used a piece of dowel wrapped in the same grosgrain ribbon I used for my corset.  I then glued the handle to the backing with E6000 and glued the puff front to the back using a hot glue gun.  As I used the same fur for this puff as the larger puff, the pile was quite long.  I didn't really like the way it looked so I trimmed the fur a little which was kinda fun to be honest.  I even sprayed it with a little hairspray to help hold  the shape.

The final powderpuff I made was the one for my hair, although I did end up making it again so I guess it's actually the second last puff I made.  I made this one by cutting 2 circles of  and stitching them together with a piece of the hot pink satin from my corset as the ribbon.  I crystalled the ribbon before sewing it in for obvious reasons.  The resulting puff was just too puffy as I used the same long-piled Yeti fur I had used for the other 2 puffs.  I decided to give this one a  haircut too.  I started with a little trim but things quickly escalated and I ended up effectively giving the puff a buzz cut.  This was OK though, for a while.  I eventually ended up redoing the puff with marabou.  To make the new puff I sewed pieces of marabou boa to 2 circles of flat craft foam in a spiral to cover the whole circle. I then glued the ribbon into place then glued the 2 pieces together.  The puff if held in place in my hair with a duck bill hair clip that is threaded through the marabou between the stitches.  This new puff is way better and I love it!

 
 

With all the puffs made the final consideration to make was to powder or not to powder.  I asked Lila Luxx, who I developed the act with through the Headliners Act Development class at the Bombshell Burlesque Academy, how she felt about baby powder.  I'm pretty sure 'terrible' was the response.  And she's right.  Baby powder on a hard stage is an accident waiting to happen.  On a carpeted stage it might be OK, but then I am reminded of a act I saw at a Vanguard Burlesque show at the Wickham Hotel in Brisbane.  If you're ever there look up and see all the spots of baby powder still on the roof and photo frames that line the walls.  I was in the front row for the show  where Jess Whoo, Australia's first drag model, proceeded to fling baby powder everywhere.  I ended up covered head to toe in powder.  I turned to Lila, wiping the powder from my face and said, "I now understand..." *

 

So ends the props section of the series.  Next post will be the last in the series and will cover the Swarovski encrusted pasties and any other little tidbits I've missed

 

xo Margeaux  

 

*This is by no means intended as a dig at Jess Whoo, whose act was amazing.

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing - Part 4: The Mesh Bra

Welcome back!  Today's post is about the making of the mesh bra.  Mesh bras were a common and often necessary part of the costumes of the dancers of the Golden Age of burlesque.  They are simple in design and can be simple to make, if you have the right tools for the job.

 

Photo by Greg Elkenhans | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy.

 

I first learnt to make mesh bras in a class with Coppelia Jane at a burlesque costuming class held at the Bombshell Burlesque Academy.  Patterning the cups is fairly simple with only a few measurements required.  As you can see in the drawing below, you measure the distance under the breast that you want to cover as well as the distance from where you want the top of the triangle to start to the centre of the first measurement.  These  2 measurements are used to make a triangle which forms your bra cup.  Start by folding a piece of paper in half then marking the distance you measured from top to bottom on the fold.  Then mark half the distance across the bottom that you measured.  After cutting out you can create a dart at the centre bottom to improve the fit, although this isn't really necessary if your using a fabric with 4-way stretch.  Adding this dart will decrease the coverage across the bottom of the breast as well as change the shape of the bottom of the cup (see below), so keep this in mind.

 
Cup pattern draftin process including optional dart and resulting change in cup shape.

Cup pattern draftin process including optional dart and resulting change in cup shape.

 

The materials I used to make my bra were stretch mesh and fold over elastic (FOE).  The best place I have found for stretch mesh is Glitter and Dance.  Thy have a huge range of colours available and finishes and will send you  samples for a fee of 20 cents, which you can get back when you make a purchase.  I ordered samples of 4 of  the different pinks available and ended up going with the bubblegum pink.  FOE is plentiful on eBay and is usually sold as DIY hairbands.  The seller I bought from has 42 colours available and free postage.  I got the light pink.  

Sewing the bra was extremely easy.  This partly because of the simple design and partly because of my new favourite thing - the walking foot.  To assemble the bra you simply need to measure the length of elastic you need to both edge the cups and create the straps then pin the cup mesh inside the folded over elastic.  Sew using a good quality polyester thread and the magical walking foot.  A walking foot is a sewing machine foot with feed dogs.  This means that fabric is being feed through by 2 sets of feed dogs - the ones on your sewing machine and the ones on the foot - and therefore goes through smoothly without stretching.  This results in a trouble free sewing experience as well as professional looking stitching.

 

A sample of the super  neat and professional results of sewing fold over elastic and stretch mesh with a walking foot.

 

You can easily purchase a walking foot online or from most sewing stores.  They usually cost around $40-50 AUD but you can get one in a 15 foot kit from Spotlight for $59 AUD.  They are more or less universal however you can be slightly limited in needle position if the foot doesn't fit your machine perfectly.  This is because the opening in the actual foot that the needle goes through may not line up with your needle for all positions and you therefore may not be able to have as wide a zigzag stitch as you want. 

One thing to consider is where your closure is going to be.  This will be dependent on your choreography as well as other considerations.  I needed to have closures at the back to fit with my choreography but many mesh bras were front opening.  I used 2 bikini clips on my bra, one at the back and one at the neck.  These aren't the easiest to open one handed and got stuck in my hair twice on stage, so I swapped them for magnetic snaps.  The magnetic snaps are actually a bit stronger than I would like so I am still on the hunt for the perfect closure.  

 
Photo taken by Cameron Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

Photo taken by Cameron Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

 

The final touch is the embellishments.  Traditionally, mesh bras had a pastie or applique attached to cover the nipple.  Because I wear pasties underneath that have very large tassels covering the nipple area alone was not enough as the tassel would still be visible.  I decided then to cover most of the cup with pieces of the same lace I used for the yoke of the tap pants.  I hand sewed the lace on in a design I mirrored on each cup.  I then glued on rose and light rose Swarovski crystals as well as some crystal AB as I did on the tap pants.  

Overall I am pretty happy with the result.  The walking foot made the stitching look so good and the quality of the mesh and elastic is great.  I would love to make another mesh bra that is closer in design to the bras of the Golden Age, but I just need to get a good look at one.  I'm really unsure as to what they used for the straps so if you happen to know what it was or a similar product I can use please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and I hope you join me again next week!

 

xo Margeaux

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Part 3: Tap Pants

Welcome to the next installment of  the Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'.  In this post we discuss the making of the tap pants.  If you haven't read part 1 where we discuss the making of the corset or part 2 which focuses on the making of the gown you should stop immediately and go back and read them now (or later, whatever, I'm not the boss of you).  

 

Photo by KTB. MUAH & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy.

 

I fell in love with the tap pants Evie Libertine uses in her Navy Beat act.  The vintage look and the ease of removal were exactly what I wanted for my act.  I started researching tap pants and came across a surprisingly large number of patterns available on Etsy.  I went with a pattern from Mrs Depew Vintage which turned out to be a great thing because of the sew-along tutorial that is available on her blog.  This blog post is very detailed with 5 posts dedicated to the tap pants alone. 

 

The Pauline bra and tap pants pattern from Mrs Depew Vintage (https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/Mrsdepew

 

The pattern is a pdf that you download and print.  This is great because you get it straight away, pay less then you do for a paper pattern, and don't pay postage.  The down side is that you have to print it out as several A4 sheets that you then have to tape together then cut out, which really isn't that big a deal.  Because it is one size though you do have to resize the pattern to fit.  This is easy though and explained in detail in one of the blog posts.  If you are wanting details on the construction of the tap pants head over to Anna Depew's blog: A Few Threads Loose

This was probably the most complicated piece I made for my costume.  The reason is that it it the most structured piece I made.  Other than resizing the pattern I made quite a few alterations.  There is a V-shaped opening at the waist in the pattern which serves as the actual opening for the tap pants (see below).  As with most vintage sewing patterns, a highish level of prior sewing knowledge is assumed and therefore there is no pattern for the placket for this opening.  Anna herself advises against using the v-shaped opening and instead advises to simply create  a new opening by drawing a straight line in the center of the v.  Doing this will add 2.5" to the waistline and reduce the complexity of the placket required.  

A section of the pattern showing the v-shaped opening  (between 6 and 7) and yoke (under 11).

I wanted  to maintain a flared shape to the pants so I opted to keep the opening as is.  Also, because I was making the pants tear away the opening was actually going to be extended the whole way through (making the piece 2 individual pieces) so the placket would be fairly simple anyway.  The plackets I made were simply 2 overlapping strips with snap tape sewn on each side.  I sewed the snap tape on to the plackets before I folded and sewed them onto the pants.  This ensured that there was no stitching visible from the outside of the placket.  

The yoke piece is drafted  slightly longer then the pants front it attaches to in order to accommodate the placket.  I found that I had to extend it a fair bit more for the plackets I used.  I did a complete toile of my altered pattern before I started cutting my final fabric, which is party satin from Lincraft.  I chose this fabric because although it is a bit heavy for something like this it was the right colour and finish.  The yoke is made from 2 pieces of the satin with the top one reinforced with a medium to heavy fusible interfacing.  I attached the lace appliques to the yoke before I sewed it onto the pants.  This meant the stitching from attaching the lace was hidden behind a second layer which acts as a facing.  Attaching the lace to the yoke before sewing it had another advantage.  Anyone who has discussed the topic with me before knows my disdain for hand sewing.  Having the yoke unattached meant I could easily machine sew the lace on then hide the mess of crisscrossing stitching behind a facing.

The other alteration I made to the pattern was in the length.  I wanted the pants to be tantalisingly short and show maybe the slightest hint of cheek.  This was obviously limited by the gusset and required the hem be slightly angled.  To add to the flirty hem line I finished them off with a rolled hem using my overlocker.  Fortunately, the white thread I had for my over locker was fine to use and blended in with the pink fabric.   And because I cut the pattern on the bias, another alteration I made, the hem ended up being a wavy "lettuce" hem.  The final touch was to add some crystals in rose, light rose, and crystal AB.

 

Photo by KTB. MUAH & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy.

 

Overall I'm fairly happy with the tap pants.  They're hella cute and come off like a dream.  I've found that leaving the bottom 2 snaps undone helps with a smooth removal and adds to the cute look of the shorts.  However, I was expecting them to flare more and give more of a circle skirt shape like in the picture.  I thought cutting them on the bias might help the shape but it didn't really make a difference.  For my next pair (for which I have started drafting the pattern for!) I am instead going to base the pattern of a half-circle culotte pattern I found.  That way they will end up looking a lot more like the drawing.  

I recommend looking at the extensive pattern range available on Mrs Depew's Vintage on Etsy and checking out the blog as well.  When it comes to using vintage patterns just be aware that having to resize them is likely and that things like plackets and facings will not be included.  It is better to have a bit of sewing and patterning knowledge before you take one of them on.

 Thanks for reading!  This post is a little more technical then my previous ones but hopefully enjoyable none the less.  Next week we will move onto part 4 which covers the  making of the triangle bra.  Also check out the bonus post to this series published on the Bombshell Burlesque Academy and Events blog.  It's all about the lessons I learnt through the making of this costume.  And while you're there check out the other posts from the inspiring teachers and students of Bombshell Burlesque!

xo Margeaux

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Part 2: The Gown

This is part 2 of my 6 part series on the making of my costume for my debut solo.  If you missed part 1 where I discussed my inspiration and concept as well as the construction of the corset, click here.  In part 2 I will discuss how I made my most treasured costume piece, the marabou trimmed gown.

 
Photo by KTB | HMUA & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by KTB | HMUA & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

As a person passionate about costuming I really wanted to make my own dressing gown.  The Catherine D’Lish gowns are beautiful but they are expensive and take all the fun out of making something yourself.  I researched gowns and robes and peignoirs but was unable to find any patterns that fit with what I wanted.  I decided that I would have to draft the pattern myself.  I am not trained in pattern making or dress making on anything beyond high school home economics, so this was not something that I had experience in.  In my inexperience I decided that I could achieve a gown with the fullness and volume I wanted by simply making a full circle skirt that fit around my neck.  It would of course need some structure around the shoulders and to be longer in the back so I conceived the basic pattern below.  I then made 1:10 toile of the pattern to check it it worked which resulted in the cutest little doll-sized gown.

 
Sketch 2.JPG
 

I started by drafting the pattern using pieces of butcher’s paper sticky taped together on my lounge room floor.  This was to prove too exciting a prospect to my normally gentle cat who attacked the paper several times leaving rips and claw holes all over it.  As anyone who has made a full circle skirt will know, this takes ~a lot~ of fabric.  My pattern pieces ended up very large and all up I ended up using about 10 m for stretch tulle to complete the gown.  I obviously wanted a full length gown but was limited by the width of the fabric.  This particular fabric is 156 cm wide (I used the polyester stretch tulle from Spotlight in pale pink).  I started by going with this as my gown length but after trying it on with the corset on top (which shortens the gown significantly) I realised that this was not going to do.  

The gown pieces were sewn together and a 56 cm gap was left open for the sleeves.  Figuring out the length required for the sleeve opening was a bit of trial and error and ended up being a lot more than anticipated.  I had originally thought 25.5 cm would be enough.  The sleeves themselves are half circles with a diameter based on the desired length.  I chose an elbow length sleeve which is practical yet visually pleasing.

 
sketch.JPG
 

During the design process I was hesitant to add an extra tier to the gown as I felt it would be too similar to the popular Catherine D’Lish gowns.  The fabric width however necessitated this.  I did some maths to calculate the length of the bottom hem I needed to attach the tier to then multiplied this by the amount of gathering I wanted (I went with 1.5 x gathering, meaning a 1.5 m length would be gathered down to 1 m).

So…

The outer circumference of the 2 half-circles I used to construct the gown was 3.9 m and 4.5m

Multiplied by 1.5 that gave me a total length of 12.7 m

The width of the fabric is 1.56 m and the desired length of the tier is 0.35 m

So I cut 9 strips of fabric 0.35 m long to make the lower tier.  No here’s where things got interesting (read: a little silly and pretty frustrating).  I sewed each of the pieces together to make one long piece which I then sewed with 2 rows of basting stitch and gathered by hand.  I did buy a ruffler foot and a gathering foot with the intention of using them to do this but it wasn’t immediately easy to use the ruffler foot to I decided to just gather with the basting stitch.  So I gathered the tulle together into this behemoth of fabric you see below.

I then started to loosen the gather in order to fit it to the bottom of the gown.  I didn’t get very far along before thread snapped… All the gathering ungathered and I almost cried.  So, after I gathered myself, I then I decided to take apart the long piece of fabric I had just sewn together and deal with the pieces individually.  I didn’t bother to even try to unpick the stitching because this is next to impossible with tulle so I just cut along the seam.  I then basted and gathered them individually.  I gathered each piece so that it was 1 m long then attached it individually to the bottom of the gown.  I overlapped the pieces slightly (about 1 cm or so) but they are not attached along the sides otherwise.  With the volume of the skirt and the gathering it’s next to impossible to see that they are not attached along the edges.

 
Photo by Greg Elkenhans. Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by Greg Elkenhans. Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

With the gown completed it was time for the trim.  I ordered 20m of the medium marabou from Photios Bros in light pink.

Sidebar: Photios Bros has great prices and range and wonderful customer service.  And while you can view their range online you will need to call them, they don’t do online sales.

If I ever meet Catherine D’Lish I will ask her how she attaches the marabou to her gowns.  The only method I could find other than hand sewing was to use a wide zigzag stitch over the core and then pull out all the feathers that are caught in the thread and lying flat.  This seemed like it would take as long as hand would and was likely to result in tulle and feathers getting caught in feed dogs and under the needle plate so I opted for hand sewing.  I took a day off work and sat and sewed from 8am to 10pm only taking breaks to eat and go to the doctor for my medical certificate (I chucked a sickie).  I got most of it done that day while watching Mommie Dearest, Gypsy, and both volumes of Nymphomaniac.  I needed another 6 hours to complete all the hand sewing.  I then used left over tulle and marabou to make a simple belt with pompom ends. And, et voila, it was finished!

 
Photo by Cameron  Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

Photo by Cameron  Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

 

All up I spent over 24 hours making it and over $150 on materials so you can see why these gowns are so damn expensive.  I am extremely happy with the outcome however I’m not sure I’d make one again unless I can figure out a faster way to attach the marabou.  If you have any tips I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

Please come back next week to read the next installment which focuses on the tap pants.

xo Margeaux

The Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Part 1

Being an avid fan of burlesque and costuming, I am always delighted to read anything on the topic.  I am especially delighted when someone goes into details of how they achieve their finished costume projects.  In the spirit of this I am going to show you how I made my costume for my debut act - Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.  As this involves many different pieces it will be split into a 6 part series.  For part 1 we will focus on the act inspiration and concept as well as the construction of the corset.  

 
Photo by Greg Elkenhans | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by Greg Elkenhans | Taken at the Bombshells Ball produced by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

Inspiration

For me the act starts with the music.  The music for this act (Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ by Journey) may not seem like it lends itself to a pink boudoir theme, but that’s exactly what I imagined when I listened to the song.  My first inspirational image came courtesy of the mega babe Rebekah La Recherche’s Instagram feed.  The photo below was taken by Sherbet Birdie and really encapsulated all I wanted for my act.  

Sidebar: I keep all my inspiration and any tips I find in ~secret~ Pintrest boards so that I can easily go back to them wherever I am.

Concept

As this was my debut solo act I wanted to keep things simple.  I decided to go with a classic-themed boudoir style act with powder puffs.  Pink was the only choice.  For the costume I wanted a luxurious boudoir set with a dressing gown and underwear set.  I decided on tap pants because of the vintage style and ease of removal.  I went with a triangle bra for this reason as well.  As far a props, I wanted to start with a small powder puff and build up to an over-sized puff for the finale.

 

Sidebar: I now understand how wrong I was about equating classic with simple.  Classic burlesque is one of the hardest things to do well.  Also, burlesque in the Golden Age wasn’t just about gowns and boas, there was a lot of incredibly creative acts utilising many and varied props (but that’s another story altogether).

The Corset

 
Photo by KTB Design | HMUA & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

Photo by KTB Design | HMUA & Styling by the Bombshell Burlesque Academy

 

I have made a few corsets.  They’re not particularly hard to make but they are incredibly difficult to perfect.  I based this corset off a pattern I made in a Bombshell Burlesque Academy course taught by the amazing burlesque costumier and icon, Coppelia Jane.  It was the first corset I ever made and still the best.  The pattern was drafted by wrapping my body in cling wrap then duct tape.  The duct tape was wrapped tightly to mimic the reduction required in the final corset.  The duct tape ‘corset’ was then marked at the centre back and centre front and divided into 12 equally -sized panels.  It was then cut off and the panels cut out and transferred to paper.  It was constructed of 2 layers, an outer satin layer strengthened with heavy fusible interfacing and a drill cotton lining, and internal boning channels. 

 My first attempt to make the corset for this costume was a bit of a disaster.  I chose a fairly light-weight satin as the outer layer and a beautiful printed rayon as the lining.  The thing about corsets is that they require a fabric of a certain weight to work.  Even though I used heavy fusible interfacing on both layers (I tried the non-fusible kind but it just wouldn’t sit flat) I couldn't get the 2 layers to match when I stitched them together.  I learnt that for this type of corset, with internal boning channels, you need to use fabric of a specific weight.  There is a concept called turn-of-cloth which basically means the more layers you have the wider the outer layer needs to be to account for this extra bulk.  Each fabric has it's own turn-of-cloth and I think that the fabrics I chose had such a difference between them that they couldn't work together without some extra finesse. One way of finessing the fabric is roll-pinning (were you drape the fabric over a rounded surface like a dress form or tailors ham then pin the fabric) but this is something that I haven't yet attempted.

The easiest way to fix the corset was to start again.  I purchased the same fabric I used in my original corset - party satin and drill cotton from Lincraft.  Party satin is surprisingly heavy weight for a cheap satin and is available in many colours.  I redid the corset in these fabrics and unsurprisingly they went together much easier.  I am however not entirely happy with the finished product.  The busk is too short, which was due to me reusing a busk from another failed corset of a different length.  This made the top and bottom gape open in an unflattering way (see photo below). 

 

Photo by Cameron Obscura | Taken at Naked Ostrich Burlesque

 

I also had a lot of trouble with the boning slipping off it's caps, busting out of the channels, and stabbing me.  I also mysteriously decided to use spiral steel boning in the channels where there was the most reduction and straight steel in the others.  This resulted in a ~very~ strange shape.  I also somehow missed putting boning in the same channel on both sides of the corset and then put 2 pieces of boning in another 2 corresponding channels.  How I managed to do this I do not know.  I have since shortened the corset to match the length of the busk and replaced all the boning with straight steel boning.  I also recapped the bones with a more generous amount of electrical tape.

 
The corset as it looks now  and the mystery of the missing boning.

The corset as it looks now  and the mystery of the missing boning.

 

These changes have vastly improved the corset, however I am still not entirely happy with it.  I feel like it doesn't quite reduce evenly across my body.  I have put this down to fabric selection.  While the fabric I used is a heavy satin without stretch I suspect that the satin I used in the first version of this corset was either not party satin or the black party satin is simply heavier.  I have gone back and checked the leftover pieces of fabric and there is definitely a difference in their weights.  There was a large amount of time between the 2 purchases so quality could have changed during that time.  Any how, I am considering remaking the corset or adding additional boning to improve the overall shape.

Finally, the boning has again slipped it's casing again and made it's way through the fabric.  I have ordered some steel tips from Sew Curvy (where I also bought the incredibly well colour-matched and high quality ribbon for the corset lacing) which I will be replacing the tape with.  I also ordered the Sophia corset kit which I intend on making in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for the blog post!

So there you have it! Corset making can be challenging but is something that most people can do.  If you can sew a straight line you can sew a corset. Just make sure you have the right materials for the job and you are wearing your patient pants! 

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Making of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'  - The Gown.

xo Margeaux